10/15/2019, 10.21
TURKEY - SYRIA
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The Turkish war on the Kurds is also being fought in the media: censorship, arrests and sites blocked

The Supreme Council for Radio and Television silences every critical voice of the military operation. Praise for the media that "contribute to national unity". Reporters arrested for broadcasting official statements of the Arab-Kurdish forces. In the country, there has been a targeted blockade of internet access for days. A censorship higher than the post 2016 coup.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The offensive launched by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the Kurds in Syria is also being waged on the domestic front in the world of media and communication; a war of censorship on TV, newspapers and social networks, arrests of opponents and critics or ordinary citizens who question Ankara's policies.

This has been confirmed by the Supreme Council for Radio and Television (RTÜK), which in an official statement released in recent days threatens to "silence" the voices opposed to the "peace" operation.

We will not tolerate broadcasts that serve the purpose of terrorism, that might mislead our citizens with false and biased information," the RTÜK noted, adding that it takes necessary actions against those outlets. At the same time, the supreme council for radio and TV  praises those who "contribute to national unity" by publishing government pressers.

In recent days, a couple of reporters have been arrested for publishing official statements by the Syrian Democratic Forces (Sdf), the Arab-Kurdish alliance that is the protagonist of the fight against the Islamic State (SI, formerly Isis), today targeted by Ankara troops . Not only journalists, but also dozens of internet users ended up behind bars for sharing posts on social networks that annoyed the government authorities.

The digital services manager of the online newspaper BirGün has been indicted for "having instilled enmity and hatred" in the people and will not be able to leave the country. He will have to answer on the basis of article 216 of the Turkish penal code, for having used news "received from agencies" in the writing of a piece published on the site. Also in this case, the only accepted source is the official one.

Another aspect that differentiates the censorship put in place in these days is that it is targeted and affects some areas of the country in particular, such as the south, while in other areas access to social media and websites is more regular. For the southern area, near the Syrian border and where the largest number of Kurds is concentrated, the block is explained by the need to prevent access or exchange of information between enemies.

According to the Netblocks website, one of the most important in the detection of censorship on the net, Turkey has targeted the most popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Whatsapp that are inaccessible in three major centers in the south: Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Hatay. Behind the block there would be the hand of Türk Telekom, the main network provider which is also partly government owned.

Finally, there is an interesting figure to be noted in terms of censorship: on the occasion of the (failed) coup in July 2016, the authorities had cut off access to the network on a national scale, but only for a few hours. Today, however, the blackout is selective, it concerns only some areas of the country and has been going on for several days now. A signal that also from the technical point of view, the experts stress, "capabilities are improving" and this is a source of "concern" for minorities, political dissidents and opponents. "It is not the first time that it has happened - stresses the research director of Freedom House Adrian Shahbaz - and it will certainly not be the last".

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